ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Darious McClendon, 21, was sentenced to 8 years in prison for causing a crash on May 4th, 2021, that killed Michelle Eads and injured her 18-year-old daughter, Shealyn.

Nine months later, Shaelyn says the pain of losing her mom hasn’t eased.

“[I was] literally watching my mom take her last breaths in front of me,” Shaelyn said. “I just remember sitting there, and I thought she was okay and she was holding my hand, and she just looked at me and said, ‘I’m so proud of you. Just keep breathing.'”

She says she still remembers the sound of screeching tires just before McClendon’s car smashed into theirs, at the intersection of Harrison Avenue and Kishwaukee Street.

“The second car came and lost control and just hit straight on her side,” she recalled.

Shaelyn said she knew McClendon from high school. Seeing him in court was one of the hardest days she says she’s ever had.

“Having to stand in front of him and read off a statement, and just seeing him so nonchalant with all of it, it was really hard,” she said.

McClendon was charged and found guilty of Reckless Homicide.

Photo: Winnebago County Jail

Shaelyn says McClendon took more from her than he could imagine.

“She was just genuinely a breath of fresh air, and somebody everybody got to call their mom,” she said. “So I think that would be the biggest thing: how loved she was by so many, and how easy it was for her to love others.”

She says she’s now hoping her mother’s story will inspire others to drive safer.

“Just because you want the thrill, or because you’re having fun with someone else, or you just want to see how fast your car can go, that’s never worth it. It’s never worth it,” Shaelyn said.

She added that she’s just recently been engaged, and says not having her mom at the wedding will be hard on her. But, she says she is living every day knowing that her mom would want to see her happy.